Category archive: Kelvim Escobar

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 28

February, 28, 2010
Jose Guillen is ready to play for the Kansas City Royals. Willie Bloomquist is not.

Guillen, who had ankle and lower back surgery after his final game on Sept. 2, is penciled in to play in the outfield for the Royals on Wednesday in an intrasquad game.

"I talked to Jose about that today," Royals manager Trey Hillman said Sunday. "I gave him a heads up. I got him in one of the projected lineups in right field. He's said he's good to go."

The Royals want to see how Guillen, who hit .242 with nine home runs last season in only 81 games, is moving after the two operations. With the addition of outfielders Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, Guillen will likely get the bulk of his at-bats as the designated hitter.

Bloomquist played in more games (125) and had more at-bats (434) last year with the Kansas City Royals than he had in his previous six seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

It took a toll.

The day after the season ended Bloomquist had arthroscopic surgery on both knees. He was on crutches for six weeks and spent most of the winter rehabbing at the Royals complex in Surprise.

The Royals have limited Bloomquist's activities in spring training and he won't be playing in any of the early exhibition games.

-- The Associated Press

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts took live batting practice for the first time this spring on Sunday, but manager Dave Trembley said he still isn't sure when Roberts, who has a herniated disk in his back, will play in a game.

Trembley said he'll wait for the trainers to give him the go-ahead before he gets Roberts any game action. In the meantime, "I can't put a timetable on it," Trembley said.

The Orioles have continued to portray Roberts' back issues as minor, but they've held Roberts back from normal spring activities. He reported back pain about a month before spring training and was diagnosed as having a small herniated disk a week ago. He is still expected to be ready for Opening Day.

"He's moving right along," Trembley said. "That [live BP] was the last phase. He's done everything else."

-- Jayson Stark,

Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was forced to cut his morning short after he tweaked his groin during drills.

The outfielders were working out on Field 1 at the Player Development Complex when Cameron told Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson that his groin was bothering him. Johnson told Cameron to go see Francona, who immediately told the outfielder to get off the field.

"He's felt it the last couple of days," said Francona. "During outfield drills today, he said something to RJ and RJ sent him over to me. Because we were getting pretty active with the relays, I told him to come in and get treatment. I don't think it's anything. He tested it out and his strength was good, his range of motion was good. But it's not something we want to make worse now."

Cameron received treatment and said he's fine.

"I just need to slow my pace down a little bit and let my body catch up," he said. "I just felt like I couldn't get loose today and I didn't want to push it too much."

-- Joe McDonald,

Astros reliever Brandon Lyon is getting close to returning to the mound after having a cyst in his right, throwing shoulder drained in January.

"They think, from a health standpoint, he's fine and he just needs to continue to build the strength up," general manager Ed Wade said, according to "My guess is probably early in the week he'll get up on the mound, and we'll let him throw and continue to get comfortable with his surroundings. We're still of the mind he's going to be fine."

Lyon signed as a free agent in the offseason after spending last season with the Detroit Tigers, where he went 6-5 with a 2.86 ERA and registered 15 holds and three saves.

-- news services

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman needed only four full seasons to establish himself as one of baseball's brightest stars.

And he's not satisfied.

His 2009 campaign -- a .292 average with 33 homers and a team-leading 106 RBIs -- was capped by the kind of first-time accolades every player dreams of: selection to the All-Star Game, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger as the National League's top offensive player at his position.

So what does Zimmerman do for an encore?

Point out his flaws and vow to erase them.

"I honestly try to get better every year. Obviously, I had my best year individually last year. From when I went back and looked at it, I made a lot of mistakes," Zimmerman said Sunday. "I can do better than that. You just got to work hard, learn from what you did wrong and get better."

Zimmerman's message heading into 2010: The front office has done its job and fortified the roster, so it's the players' responsibility to enact a turnaround from a 103-loss season.

"Even if you have a $200 million team like the Yankees, if those guys don't go out there and play, [you don't win]. It's up to us to execute and to do the little things right and win," Zimmerman said. "When it comes down to it, it's our team and we're the ones who have to execute."

-- The Associated Press

Dustin McGowan was pitching to major league hitters on Sunday for the first time in more than a year and a half.

Making Toronto's Opening Day roster is not a priority for the Blue Jays -- and shouldn't be for McGowan either.

"We've talked to him about it. That date is non-existent for us with him," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If it happens to fall on that date, great. If it happens a week later, that's fine as well, even three month after that."

The 27-year-old last pitched on July 8, 2008, removed early in a game against Baltimore with a sore right shoulder. Two days later he went on the disabled list and underwent surgery July 31 to repair fraying of the labrum. It finished him for that season and last year's as well. Then on July 9, 2009, he had surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee, delaying his rehabilitation by about six weeks.

McGowan was scheduled to throw only in the bullpen on Sunday, without facing batters, "but I talked with (pitching coach) Bruce Walton," Anthopoulos said, "and our trainer signed off on it, and Dustin felt good and wanted to throw to hitters. We didn't have a problem with it."

-- The Associated Press

New Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde has returned to his home country of the Dominican Republic for a death in the family, manager Jim Leyland said.

Valverde will be back at the Tigers' spring training camp in Lakeland, Fla., after a few days, Leyland said Friday.

Valverde came to the Tigers as a free agent after recording 116 saves in three years for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros.

"He's a big, strong, outstanding-stuff guy with a great personality," Leyland said.

-- news services

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said the center field and leadoff starting jobs are Julio Borbon's to lose.

"For me, Borbon is in the same position that [shortstop] Elvis Andrus was last year," Washington said Sunday. "It's up to us to keep him relaxed and let him be who he is."

Borbon made his debut with the Rangers last season as a substitute for an injured Josh Hamilton and hit .312 in 46 games. The 23-year-old entered this spring as the leading candidate to replace Marlon Byrd, who signed with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason.

One distinct difference in the way Borbon will be used is that Washington plans to play Borbon every day, versus both right-handers and left-handers. Last season, Borbon was a meager 2-for-15 against lefties in the limited opportunities he was given.

"I feel comfortable against lefties," Borbon said. "I've never had any doubts hitting versus righties or lefties. It's a matter of coming back out and doing it consistently."

-- The Associated Press

Who better to teach the Oakland Athletics' best base-stealing threat than baseball's all-time stolen base leader?

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who's visiting Oakland's camp as a special instructor this week, spent half an hour with center fielder Rajai Davis on Saturday. He predicted Davis, who stole 41 bases in 2009, could swipe as many as 80 bags this season.

"He had no balance, but then we kept talking. I said there's something you're doing wrong," Henderson said of his work with Davis. "Everything he did, he did flat-footed. I asked him how he got to be so fast when he's flat-footed. "I said, 'Get a little on your toes,' and he never knew it made such a difference. And that's one little thing that changed him already."

"He's a good kid, and to me he's got the heart that he wants to be a basestealer," Henderson added. "The biggest thing is fear that I got to get out of him -- fear in him going out and taking control of the bases and changing the game."

Davis welcomed the opportunity to learn from Henderson.

"To get another perspective from a guy who has proven his success at this level in the major leagues is a great opportunity," Davis said. I don't know how many teams get this chance to bring back guys who are in the Hall of Fame."

-- news services

Mets right-hander Kelvim Escobar has yet to throw off the mound in spring training and is now expected to start the season on the disabled list with shoulder weakness, manager Jerry Manuel says.

The Mets signed Escobar to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million plus incentives, believing he could likely overcome the injury woes that sidelined him for most of 2008 and 2009 and recover the form that delivered 17 wins for the Los Angeles Angels in 2007. He was penciled in as a likely set-up man for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Escobar said he's been playing catch every other day, but has no turntable for returning to the mound, according to "They don't want to rush me back, because I've already had a couple of setbacks trying to rush myself," he said. "This time, I want to do things right and make sure."

With Escobar not expected to be ready, the Mets are considering possibilities including Ryota Igarashi, Bobby Parnell, Sean Green and Fernando Nieve.

"If [Escobar's] healthy, it would have been a tremendous, tremendous fit for us," manager Jerry Manuel told reporters. "We felt like we kind of had that covered. But now with the injury situation, we have to have someone else step up and handle that role."

-- news services


March, 24, 2009
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Derek Jeter rejoined the Yankees from the World Baseball Classic and was in the starting lineup at shortstop for Tuesday night's game against Boston.

Jeter received a loud ovation from fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field when he batted for the first time in the first inning. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and played seven innings in the Yankees' 7-1 win over the Red Sox.

"It's important he's here," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "It's really exciting. It's important to come together as a team."

Jeter, who grounded out in the first, hit a soft liner to right for a fourth-inning single and walked during the sixth against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, will play in most of the Yankees' remaining spring training games in preparation for the regular-season opener April 6 at Baltimore.

"We've still got what, a week and a half?" he said. "I don't see it being an issue. I've got plenty of time. Physically I'm fine. It's good to get back and now get into a routine of playing every day."

Eric Byrnes appears to be fully recovered from the hamstring problems that sidelined him for much of last season -- at least at the plate.

Byrnes had two more hits Tuesday for the Diamondbacks in a 7-3 loss to the Giants.

The Diamondback outfielder had singles in his first two at-bats, giving him five straight hits after going 0-for-3 in his first game since being sidelined June 30 because of a hamstring injury.

"To string together five in a row, I am not going to complain about that, especially when they all were hit pretty solidly," Byrnes said.

Byrnes went hitless in his spring debut March 20, was 3-for-3 in his second outing before getting a run-scoring single in the first inning against the Giants. He added another hit in the third, and had a stolen base.

"I feel like I am fighting for playing time. Any time I go out there, that is my mentality," Byrnes said.

Chase Utley hit his first home run since hip surgery and Chan Ho Park made his latest bid for a rotation spot, helping the Phillies rally past the Blue Jays 7-6.

Utley drove in three runs, two on a homer off closer B.J. Ryan. It was the All-Star second baseman's first long ball since he had hip surgery in November.

Park gave up three runs and four hits in four innings. He struck out seven and walked one. The veteran right-hander is competing with 26-year-old lefty J.A. Happ for the final spot in Philadelphia's rotation.

"It didn't hurt him at all," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We need people to get people out. That's what we're looking for."

The Yankees put individual game tickets on sale for the first season of their new ballpark and said they had sold 170,000 by midday Tuesday.

Yankees chief operating Lonn Trost said the sale began with full-season equivalents at just under 36,000 for the 52,000-capacity ballpark. He said January's announcement that full-season equivalents had reached 39,393 resulted from an internal team miscommunication and the higher figure referred to the final season at old Yankee Stadium, which held about 57,000 seats.

According to the Yankees' Web site, as of early evening tickets remained at $2,625 for the April 16 home opener against Cleveland, each with a $59.70 convenience charge.

Tickets are priced at $525, $625, $900, $1,050, $1,300 and $2,625 for the Legends seats ringing the infield, which include food and soft drinks. Other field level seats are $90, $125, $225, $250, $300 and $375.

Main level tickets go for $60, $80, $95 and $150, while the terrace level is $50, $75 and $85, grandstand $23 and $30, and bleachers $14.

Tickets for the Delta Sky 360 Suite sell for $375-800 and the Jim Beam Suite goes for $120-150 a seat.

Koji Uehara showed no ill effects from a left hamstring strain that had kept him out of Grapefruit League play since March 9, and the new changeup he unveiled worked just fine.

Uehara struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings in the Orioles' 3-1 loss to the Nationals, using his first outing in more than two weeks to try out a new pitch he learned while sidelined.

"I'm the type of guy who wants to try new pitches on the mound in game situations, rather than do it in bullpen sessions," Uehara said through a translator.

Uehara, who threw 40 of his 57 pitches for strikes, allowed a run and three hits without issuing a walk. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz taught the right-hander the new pitch during his last bullpen session and the Orioles' first Japanese-born player quickly integrated it into his repertoire in the longest of his four spring outings.

"I hope he's happy with it. He threw it and got instant results," Kranitz said. "Anytime you're learning a new pitch or trying a new pitch, it's nice to get some instant success. ... It looked like it was a natural pitch for him."

No one is happier to have Jose Oquendo back from the World Baseball Classic than Cardinals outfielder-turned-second baseman Skip Schumaker.

The Cardinals are giving Schumaker a crash course in becoming an infielder, hoping his bat will offset any defensive liabilities. But the conversion hit a rough patch while Oquendo, the team's infield instructor and third base coach, was away managing Puerto Rico's WBC team.

Schumaker continued to work with bench coach Joe Pettini during Oquendo's absence, and he's getting better. After making four errors early in the spring, he hasn't made one in two weeks, but Schumaker is struggling with intricate details of the position.

"I'm not going to take anything away from Joe, because he really did help me a lot, but Oquendo has a special talent out there," Schumaker said.

If Schumaker isn't ready, manager Tony La Russa will likely turn to utility infielder Brendan Ryan at second base for Opening Day. But that wouldn't mean the experiment is over.

"We're going to make it work," Oquendo said. "It's going to be fine. We are going to be able to use him. That gives [La Russa] another option to get Schumaker in the games and get more at-bats."

New York Mets right-hander Freddy Garcia has an accepted an assignment to the team's minor league camp, assistant GM John Ricco said, according to the New York Daily News.

Garcia, attempting a comeback from shoulder surgery, was competing to be the Mets' fifth starter. It now appears that job will go to Livan Hernandez.

According to the report, Ricco indicated that Garcia will report to minor league camp for the rest of spring training, and then either remain for extended spring training or join the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, the Mets' top minor league club.

"He still has a ways to go, but I'm glad he's going to stay with us and try to work things out," Ricco said, according to the Daily News.

The Cleveland Indians have sent left-hander Jeremy Sowers, outfield prospects Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, and four others to the minors.

Sowers, the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, lost out in the battle for Cleveland's No. 5 rotation spot. Lefties Aaron Laffey and Scott Lewis are still in the running for the final rotation berth.

LaPorta and Brantley were acquired in July in the blockbuster trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. They were reassigned Tuesday to minor league camp along with right-handers Kirk Saarloos and Greg Aquino and first baseman Michael Aubrey.

Sowers and catcher Wyatt Toregas were optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Kelvim Escobar's fastball has recently been clocked in the high 90s, an indication that the Angels right-hander is ahead of schedule in recovering from shoulder problems that cost him all of 2008.

Escobar's fastball topped out at 96 mph in a Triple-A game against the Cubs, the Los Angeles Times reported. Facing seven batters, Escobar threw 18 of his 34 pitches for strikes, was clocked between 94 and 96 mph and gave up two hits, with one strikeout and one walk.

"Oh man, I feel good," Escobar said, according to the Times. "I knew I had good velocity, but I never thought I'd be throwing 96."

Escobar hopes he can gradually increase his workload in the weeks to come, according to the report. At that pace and barring any setbacks, the Angels could have him back in the starting rotation sometime in April. They'd be getting back a pitcher who went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 2007.

"I've tested my arm many times this spring, and it feels fine," Escobar said, according to the Times. "Now, I'm going to focus on mechanics and making good pitches."

Now that he leads his team in seniority with eight seasons in Pittsburgh, Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson has realized that it's time to be a leader. Wilson admits he wasn't comfortable in that role before, but he's embracing it as the Pirates try to produce a winning season after 16 straight years of sub-.500 records.

"I've always felt there's been someone in the clubhouse that has more time than myself, and it's not really my job," Wilson said. "This is the first year I've been the senior guy. It definitely puts a change in you and your heart and how you want to lead."

Wilson began the change with a bold step. At hitting coach Don Long's suggestion, he completely rebuilt his swing, in the hopes he could recover the power at the plate that abandoned him last season. He finished 2008 with one homer in 305 at-bats, down from the 12 he hit in 477 at-bats in '07.

Instead of a tuneup, Wilson went for an overhaul by adopting a swing that begins with his hands much lower than before -- despite the fact his stance had been hands-high since he was 6 years old. And Wilson stuck with it, despite an 0-for-23 slump that ended Saturday. He had two doubles against the Rays on Monday.

"Obviously, I didn't really like it that much at first -- you've got to change your whole swing," Wilson said. "But, watching films from past years of my bat path, [Long] showed me we could have a better pass at the ball if we brought the hands down."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.